Archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

File namesort descending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/4464 Trade and Industry (Government purchasing policy and Buy British policy) (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Mar 15 Ends: 1993 Mar 8 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4466 Trade (Overseas trade statistics) Begins: 1987 May 15 Ends: 1993 Feb 25 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4477 Transport (East London river crossing) Begins: 1984 May 1 Ends: 1993 Jul 7 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4480 Transport (Road freight transport and lorry weights) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Oct 4 Ends: 1993 Sep 15 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4481 Transport (Road safety) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Apr 28 Ends: 1993 Jul 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4486 Economic Policy (Unitary taxation) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Jul 7 Ends: 1993 May 8 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4488 Trinidad and Tobago (UK/Trinidad and Tobago relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Nov 13 Ends: 1993 May 27 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4489 Tuvalu (UK/Tuvalu relations: internal situation; includes visits of Tuvalu Prime Ministers, Mr Toaripi Lauti, Dr Tomasi Puapua, and Mr Bikenibeu Paeniu) Begins: 1980 Jul 9 Ends: 1993 Dec 14 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4490 Turkey (Internal situation: European aid to Turkey) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1993 Aug 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4492 United Nations (Inauguration of World Food Day, 16 October 1981: includes correspondence on the appointment of the next Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation) Begins: 1981 Aug 28 Ends: 1993 Oct 12 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4494 Uruguay (UK/ Uruguay relations: internal situation) Begins: 1981 Aug 24 Ends: 1993 Jun 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4495 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Apr 25 Ends: 1993 May 24 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4500 USA (Economic situation) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Feb 9 Ends: 1993 Apr 21 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4501 USA (Visit of Donald Regan, US Treasury Secretary, on 8 December 1983: includes plan for a visit by his successor, Lloyd Bentsen) Begins: 1983 Nov 17 Ends: 1993 Feb 4 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4502 Vanuatu (UK/Vanuatu relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jul 29 Ends: 1993 Apr 27 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28

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